Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "Judge Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on the eve of the conclusion of her mandate, has called for a full investigation into the killings in the so-called "war on drugs" in the Philippines. "I announce that the preliminary examination on the situation in the Republic of the Philippines has been concluded and that I have requested judicial authorization to proceed with an investigation", the judge wrote in a note made public by the Court. According to official data, the victims related to the "war against drug trafficking" (which increased during the first months of the pandemic), would be about 6 thousand: the figure is also disputed by the same government Commission on Human Rights, which has indicated a "excessive use of force", while national human rights groups and international organizations such as “Human Rights Watch” and “Amnesty International” believe that the total effective toll reaches over 30 thousand victims.
Furthermore, in February 2019 - three years after the campaign launched in 2016 by the newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte - the Philippine Department of Justice admitted that the police were guilty of thousands of "war on drugs" murders. The ICC investigation would open a new international dispute with the Philippine government and would immediately clash with the fact that Manila in 2019 withdrew its adherence to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, as already happened in the case of Burundi, the Court retains jurisdiction over the crimes that allegedly occurred in the territory of that country during the period in which it was one of the States adhered to the Statute. These offenses are not subject to any statute of limitations. The situation in the Philippines has been under preliminary scrutiny since February 8, 2018, and Bensouda has established that there is a reasonable basis for believing that murder crimes were committed on the territory of the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of the "war on drugs" campaign, ie before Manila left the ICC. Bensouda has been Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court since June 2012 until today, June 15, 2021, when she ends her term. She was previously the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Gambia and was a lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Among the many Philippine civil society groups that have filed complaints with the ICC is the Philippine Catholic network "Rise Up" which brings together families of the victims, religious, priests, laity, lawyers, communities and ecclesial movements committed to promoting human dignity, justice and the common good. "Rise Up" notes that "there has been no credible and effective national investigation to prosecute the crimes committed in the 'war on drugs", which continues with total impunity, while President Duterte claims "presidential immunity" for himself. The families of the victims also note that access to information and police reports has long been hindered and "legal measures and loopholes have been put in place to protect the perpetrators". (MG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/6/2021)